A West Michigan attorney is among a group of legal professionals nationwide hoping to raise the bar for advising the growing craft beverage industry.
Joseph Infante, the head of the alcoholic beverage regulation team at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC, is among the founding members of the new Craft Beverage Lawyers Guild, a new nonprofit trade group and serves on the new organization’s 10-person governing committee.
The guild features a mix of outside and in-house counsel for craft breweries, distilleries, cideries and wineries, and seeks to improve the level of legal representation the companies as well as serve as a go-to resource for various parts of the industry, according to Infante.
“This is one of the most highly regulated industries out there,” said Infante, who’s based in Grand Rapids.
Perhaps appropriately, the idea for guild came up over beers during an alcoholic beverage lawyer meetup as part of the Craft Brewers Conference earlier this month in Philadelphia.
“We were all in Philly for CBC and we talked about forming some sort of organization for beverage lawyers to increase the standard of the legal advice suppliers were getting,” Infante said.
From there, the planning came together very quickly. By the time a follow-up discussion was over, the guild had established a website, email address and social media presence, Infante said.
The guild wants to maintain a very cooperative relationship among its members so they can trade information with one another, problem-solve complex legal issues and refer business within the membership. It will serve as a resource for craft beverage producers and their raw material and equipment suppliers, but will not focus on the distribution or retail tier of the industry.
Participating lawyers will be expected to attend conferences and present on legal issues, serve as a resource for various state craft beverage guilds, and be open for speaking engagements on their topics of expertise.
“I think this was a great idea, and we all jumped at the chance to be involved,” Infante said.
Additionally, he expects the guild to be picky in selecting participating members, who must all “show an effort to be involved in the industry. This is not just a referral source.
“It certainly won’t hurt members’ individual businesses. But the reason we formed is because we want to make sure suppliers are getting good representation. This industry is more sophisticated than it was 15 years ago.”
In addition to Infante, the initial Craft Beverage Lawyers Guild also includes Shauna Barnes, in-house counsel at Dogfish Head Companies of Milton, Del.; Richard Blau from Tampa-based Gray Robinson PA; Joseph Davis, the in-house counsel at New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colo.; Paul Havel of Portland, Ore.-based Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP; Ryan Malkin of Miami Beach, Fla.-based Malkin Law PA; Alva Mather of Pepper Hamilton LLP in Philadelphia; Eugene Pak of Oakland-based Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP; Marcus Reed, the in-house counsel at the Craft Brew Alliance in Portland, Ore.; and Marc Sorini of Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery LLP.